Spoiler alert: I’ll be talking about stuff that happens in the critically acclaimed and addictive Netflix original series Stranger Things (at least through Episode 1 of the second season). So if you haven’t seen it yet, “borrow” your brother-in-law’s Netflix password, binge it, then come back. I’ll wait. And don’t tell me what happens past Episode 1 of the second season. My friend Adam wouldn’t shut up about it and I already know too much.
How many of you think there are other dimensions and/or parallel universes out there that we can’t see? Ha. Trick question. It’s a scientific fact. At least it’s one of the leading theories to explain the weird things quantum particles can do.
Now, how many of you think there may be a portal to another dimension between the furnace and water heater in your unfinished basement with demonic monsters in it that have faces that peel open like flesh-eating flowers?
…Mmmm. I do….
At least after watching the first season of Stranger Things. That cult horror show has made my early morning workouts especially hard. And if the light-bulb with the pull-chain over my squat-rack flickers at all… Clink. Done! I’ll just get fat.
Everyone’s a Hero
You know one of the major themes I noticed in Stranger Things. Every single character in that show is ten times more brave than I am on my best day. Even the curly-haired geek with no front teeth and the sweet snap-back hat is more brave than I would be. I’ve got to learn to be more like the characters in this show (more on that later).
I can tell you, right now, if I encountered a dimensional portal to hell in a creepy small town in the middle of nowhere in the midwest in 1984, first chance I got I’d pack a shitload of Jello pudding on the back of the banana seat of my Huffy Thunder and peel out the other way, pedaling until my legs fell off. Sorry, Will. You’ve been a good friend and all…
These guys don’t do that. They don’t run. Time and time again, they’re doing the exact opposite. All while I’m curled behind my blanket on the couch, Please don’t go through the snot-covered spider-webby thing that just appeared in the trunk of that tree, Nancy.
In one scene, steel-spine teen Nancy (all 95 pounds of her) and her awkward and not-much-bigger photographer “friend” Jonathan actually hatch a plan to draw the disgusting demogorgan hell-monster out of the walls from the upside-down dimension to do epic battle in a house in the middle of the night in the middle of the woods… alone! And then pretty-boy Steve Harrington, who I thought was going to be the one character to wimp out like I would, shows up and starts swingin’ a pokey bat. Dude. The hair.
Props. To all of them!
Update: I’ve now finished the second season. I write slow and often take a deep breath in the middle of an article. I really thought Sam from Lord of The Rings was going to be the one to wimp out. Nope. He’s super brave. Too brave, Sam… Too brave.
Turns out the uncool dad from My Two Dads is fearless, too…
What’s The Lesson Here?
Is this is just a long-winded way of admitting I’m a wuss and I get creeped out by hell-monsters and small bugs? Did I really just want an excuse to geek out about Stranger Things because it’s a cool show and good click-bait for an article?
But ignore all that. There’s actually great life-lessons in there amongst all the slime. To best learn the lessons, let’s go back to the scene in the house in the woods with Nancy, Jonathan and Steve Harrington… and the demogorgan.
What does that group do when they learn there’s a living nightmare completely surrounding them just beyond a thin, invisible veil of dimensional ecto-goo? Do they cower in the face of unimaginable terror? Do they worry constantly and wait for the monsters to burst through the veil when they least expect to take them from behind?
No. They make a plan to face the demogorgan and take it down on their own terms. On their own turf. ASAP.
They bait that evil thing with their own blood, set a rusty bear-trap, and light it up like a Roman candle. They didn’t kill it, exactly. But that’s beside the point (I think they stalled it long enough for something else important to happen in the story-line. I don’t know. I’d have to go back and rewatch…)
My point is, Nancy, Jonathan and Steve Harrington stared their nightmare right in its foul face. They met it on their terms in their house. They didn’t allow fear of the unknown to paralyze them. They took action when they discovered something was lurking and made plans to deal with it. They took control of the situation using the crude weapons they had on-hand to control it before it got completely out of control.
How does this apply to my life and my money?
Small Problems → Big Emergencies
I’m not fighting giant inter-dimensional hell-monsters like Nancy, Jonathan and Steve Harrington, but I got my own problems to deal with daily. Some big and some small.
Too often, I do the exact opposite of Nancy, Jonathan and Steve Harrington and let even the small problems fester. I don’t know why. It may be laziness. It may be out of my comfort zone a little. It may even be a little bit of fear of something I’ve never dealt with before.
Regardless. I know I should be making plans to deal with problems as early as possible when I still have at least some control in the situation. But the easiest thing to do is just pretend the lurking monsters aren’t there (grab some Cheez-its and binge-watch Stranger Things), all while letting them feed on my brain stem and grow and multiply in the upside-down dimension in the back of my mind, making me just a little more uncomfortable every day.
And when they grow into a full-grown emergency and inevitably pop up out of the blue to attack at the worst possible time, the situation ends up controlling me… and costing me a lot more than they would have.
It’s that slow seep of water in the basement under the back-door stoop that could really use my attention before it becomes a full-blown flood. It’s the tree branches scraping the shingles I should trim before they rip the roof off. It’s the uncomfortable conversation I should have with a co-worker before a simple misunderstanding destroys all relationships at the office…
It’s all the stuff I don’t feel like dealing with right now. Problems that just grow bigger with time.
Big Worries → Small Brain Space
What about the nightmarishly huge full-grown demogorgans that I let live in the back of my brain? Nightmare catastrophes I have absolutely no control over that I sometimes let myself lose sleep over even though they may never materialize in my own life?
What if I got cancer? What if the electrical grid goes? What if rogue DNA science leads to the creation of a super-race of telepathic super-humans that enslave us all…
These all could happen. But I have no real control over whether they happen or not. Like Nancy, Jonathan and Steve Harrington, I need to stop worrying about the unknown and take some action. If something is eating away at me, I need to coax it out from hiding into the battle arena of my sphere of influence, and learn to fight it with all the tools I have at my disposal.
If I’m really worried about getting cancer, I need to schedule regular checkups, get used to eating better and shore up my health insurance and life insurance.
If I’m really worried about the electrical grid going down, I should probably have a supply of military MREs, a backup generator with some gas and a 12-pack of Summit EPA always in the house.
If I’m really worried about rogue DNA science leading to the creation of a super-race of telepathic super humans… I don’t have a clue how to prepare for that. I’ll have to think about it more. Ninja training?
These are extreme examples. My point is, I simply waste too much brain-power worrying about things I can’t control. And blind worry doesn’t do any good.
The fact is, I probably always have some weapons available to put up a fight against any nightmare that could come my way. If something’s really bothering me, I need to identify those weapons (even if it’s just a wrist-rocket sling-shot against a 10-foot-tall demogorgan), and war-game what I’d actually do if the worst-case happens. Then I can file that worry away, knowing I’m controlling what I can control. And move my focus to something that’s much more productive.
High time to face the demogorgans
I can’t ignore small problems anymore to let them become big ones. Just like I can’t waste brain-power worrying about uncontrollable catastrophes anymore without taking some action to hedge. Simply put, I need to face my demogorgans head-on with a bat full of nails.
After all, my wife and I are just a few years away from a potentially significant life-changeas we reach the runway retirement (semi-FI) phase of our life. I need to face the monsters head-on, or risk being turned back from my goals at the first sign of trouble that enfolds in that unfamiliar world.
Of course, I knew all of this well before watching cult retro horror on subscription television. But Stranger Things put it all into sharper focus for me (well worth the $11.82 per month), so I thought I’d share.
Plus, like I said, I just wanted an excuse to geek-out about the show.